Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and Assemblyman Gary Finch had the same reaction when they learned state Sen. Michael Nozzolio wouldn't seek re-election this year.
"Mike Nozzolio has been an outstanding member of the Senate, and he's done a wonderful job of serving Cayuga County and his other counties," Finch, R-Springport, said Tuesday.
Nozzolio, R-Fayette, announced he wouldn't run for re-election after doctors told him he needed surgery to repair faulty heart valves. He said the surgery will occur in the next few months. The recovery period is typically three to five months, but could be longer.
Kolb, R-Canandaigua, whose Assembly district overlaps with a portion of Nozzolio's Senate district, said he was shocked to hear of the senator's health issues.
Over the past 15 years, Kolb said he's had a strong working relationship with Nozzolio. They've partnered on various issues, including economic development projects in the Finger Lakes region and Brittany's Law, a bill that would establish a statewide violent felony offenders registry.
Kolb added that Nozzolio's seniority in the Senate has been asset to the region. He said the person who succeeds Nozzolio will have big shoes to fill.
"Amassing the amount of experience and service that Mike's given to our region, you don't replace that overnight," he said.
State Sen. Jim Seward, who has served with Nozzolio in the state Senate for 23 years, lauded the senator for his work on economic issues, support for schools and opposition to the SAFE Act, a major gun control measure that was signed into law in 2013.
In a statement, Seward, R-Milford, called Nozzolio a "diligent, hardworking legislator."
"Knowing Mike, I am certain he will meet this new life challenge head-on and come out on top," he said.
Nozzolio's colleagues reflected on his work in the Senate and issues they worked on together.
For Finch, one memory is Nozzolio's support during his 1999 Assembly campaign.
"He was there from the very beginning and gave me his endorsement and his friendship," Finch said. "And I've never forgotten that."
Assemblyman Bob Oaks said he and Nozzolio have something in common — they both first ran for public office in the same year, 1982.
Nozzolio was a candidate for state Assembly, while Oaks ran for Wayne County clerk.
Both men won their respective races.
"Campaigning door-to-door, attending events and being in parades together, I quickly learned that nobody works harder or is more dedicated to public service and the constituents they represent than Mike Nozzolio," Oaks, R-Macedon, said.